A Sill Drama

So……I sat on the ground to begin painting the basement window in the NE corner.

The window sash and trim were restored and primed white in 2014 by one of the guys working on the house. Thus, all I needed to do was paint on pretty colors.

This assumption quickly proved….foolish.

As I went over the sill with some sandpaper, it was obvious that the left edge of the sill was, ahh, punky. Oh dear.

And quite quickly it was glaringly apparent that what had looked good was, in fact, not good. The white primer was but a thin layer covering — eek! — rot.


The sill after the punky parts were removed and cleaned away. OK. Not tooooooo bad.


While this was unexpected, I thought: This is not so bad. I can likely use some bondo filler and make everything right again.

Then I realized that the entire outer edge was, well, just not right. So I fussed and pulled and…oh dear.


Under the seemingly (seemingly being the operative word) pristine wood, more rot was revealed. And, exponentially worse? TERMITES were revealed! LIVE termites! YIKES!


At this point my normally optimistic self was replaced by my often unseen pessimistic self.


The house is falling apart! The house is being eaten alive! The house is DOOMED!

It was now obvious that a quickie repair would not do. The sill had to go!


The offending sill was ruthlessly cut in half, and ripped out. After turning it upside-down, the whole front edge was exposed as rotted.


With sill gone, the termites were sucked into the shop vac. The window sash was removed for painting, the opening blocked over, and the remaining window trim painted. And, with this, optimistic Ross returned. Warily. Perhaps, perhaps, the house was NOT doomed.


Magic Justin then came to the rescue as he and I worked to make a new sill out of pressure-treated lumber. The sill required four rabbets, and subtle beveled edges. And all this took two friggin’ hours. TWO HOURS! For a sill!


Once the new sill and its rabbets and subtle beveled edges are painted and installed, nobody will ever, not for a second, look down and think: My! What a gorgeous and meticulously done new sill!

Nope. The new sill will blend into the whole and will never be appreciated, will never be invited to posh parties, and will never be a social media sensation.

I know! Sad!





  1. Annette on August 27, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    Oh my termites are scarey. So glad you found them!

    Perhaps you could have a garden party and invite the special sill.

  2. Aaron Workman on August 27, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    Ross, I used to be an auto body man and while Bondo can be used for wood repairs, it should only be used where there is no possibility of exposure to moisture. Bondo is hygroscopic and in auto body applications if not properly painted, will absorb moisture and rust the underlying metal. In wood applications outdoors, I would be fearful of moisture absorption through the back side making paint fail prematurely or worse hold moisture than the surrounding wood and accelerate rot.

    • Ross on August 27, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      Hi, Aaron!

      Yes, I agree.

      I intended the word BONDO as generic, which is I did not capitalize it. Silly me! I never use the stuff.

    • Aaron Workman on August 28, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Hi Ross!
      I had read tips elsewhere to use Bondo for repairing rotted wood and it kinda made me cringe. It is really good for patching old lockset holes in interior doors that will be painted and smoothing out imperfections on the outside of clawfoot tubs. Despite the instructions for epoxy tub refinish kits, do not use it to fix pits or chips prior to epoxy coating, it will fail in time for the very same reason. Ask me how I know😒

  3. Dan Goodall-Williams on August 28, 2018 at 3:17 am

    Wow, you just never know what you will run into. Thankfully, you know how to resolve the issue. Again, the house thanks you.

  4. Barb Sanford on August 28, 2018 at 7:58 am

    The team of Ross and Justin is like Batman and Robin: always a force for good. Once again, the team saves the Cross Hose from destruction.

    • Mike on August 28, 2018 at 9:50 am

      I wish my carpenter and I were more like Ross/Batman and Justin/Robin; lately, we seem more like Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy…

  5. Brita Barlow on August 28, 2018 at 10:15 am

    Ross I use your experiences as an antidote for my husband’s daily gloom over home improvement tribulations. You are not the only one who will take two hours to rebuild a sill with a subtle beveled edge which no one will ever notice.

  6. Grandmere Louise on August 28, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    I’m just grateful it was a window sill and not a house sill. Ask me how I know. But since I put in termite monitoring/bait stations I haven’t had problems. I recommend ’em.

  7. Stewart McLean on August 28, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    I am sorry to say that I fear that your cats will find your rabbits and eat them, ruining your sill. On the other hand if you meant rabbet,


    or if auto check doesn’t have rabbet in its dictionary and changed the word rabbet to rabbit to “help” you, then my fears are allayed.
    Great job on the sill.
    -Are you having an exterminator inspect the house and treat it for termites now? They may have invaded elsewhere. Although it may be unlikely, they could be starting in places that you have already restored. It is extraordinarily fortunate that the house did not have extensive termite damage during the years it was so neglected.

    • Ross on August 28, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      I caught the spelling error quickly. Just refresh your page!

      • Stewart McLean on August 28, 2018 at 8:13 pm

        Sorry, I went straight from e-mail to comment without checking if you had fixed it. I saw that you had as soon as I clicked on the Post Comment bar. Of course my hugely overinflated ego takes such pleasure in pointing out such errors with bonus ego points for tying the comment into your cats to show how clever I am. If I can’t be a wit, I guess I’ll have to settle for nit-wit. It is much more socially acceptable when I am caught in the act of playing with words as opposed to other things with which I might be caught playing. I am assuming that it was a result of the dread auto check, which I frequently find loathsome in the way it twists what one says in sometimes almost Freudian ways.
        – My main interest is in the suggestion that you have an exterminator check the whole property and treat it so nothing damages your brilliant work. I truly do find your work to be a brilliant way of life that few have the good fortune to attain. Maybe I should have said, I find your way of life is a brilliant work. Either way, hats off to you for your integrity in openly sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly with me and the rest of your disciples. You continue to ROCK!

  8. Seth Hoffman on August 29, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Looks like good work! I’m always glad to see I’m not the only one who enjoys reproducing wood trim from dimensional lumber on a table saw and router.

    I expect these sills are rather prone to rot since moisture can be trapped between the bottom of the wood sill and the stone sill beneath. Is there any slope to the stone sill? Ensuring a path for drainage, and appropriate caulking should help things, but the caution with caulk, of course, is that it can just as effectively hold water in as keep it out.

  9. bill whitman on April 2, 2019 at 8:46 am

    similar thing happened when fixing my friends porch. I tore off the fascia board and
    Carpenter ants 1/2″ long came rushing out by the 1000s. we ended up demolishing the whole porch as they had eaten most of it and it was being held together by the trim boards.
    frustrating and time consuming to dig deeper but always better in the end.

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